carrageenan on a food label

Carrageenan: A Food Additive That’s Not as Safe As You Think

If you look towards the back of the ingredients list on many processed foods you’ll frequently see an ingredient called carrageenan. Like lots of other confusing sounding food-stuffs, most people blithely consume it daily without a scintilla of awareness about what it actually is or whether or not it’s good for you.

Overall carrageenan is (mostly) harmless, but it has a variety of troublesome side effects that shouldn’t go unnoticed, most notably high correlations to colon cancer, inflammation, and a depressed immune system.

carrageenan

What Is Carrageenan?

Carrageenan is a polysaccharide that’s derived from red seaweed. On a molecular level it’s actually very similar to plastic and is popular for that reason. It bends easily but snaps back into place, which makes it a useful additive to foods, gels, and foams.

It’s long been used to improve the texture of food, and the earliest reported uses of red seaweed to improve a food’s characteristics dates back to 600 BC in China. It began to be used commercially in the west starting in the 1930’s, and about 80% of the world’s red seaweed is harvested in the philippines.

Uses

Carrageenan is cheap, fairly docile, and easy to crank out. So it’s used in a lot things. You’ll often see it in milk products to improve viscosity, especially plant milks since they don’t have any cream. Its others uses include but are not limited to:

  • toothpaste
  • gummy products
  • dairy products/plant milks
  • beer
  • shoe polish
  • shaving cream

And the list goes on. You’ll often see carrageenan used in conjunction with agar, guar gum, or xantham gum.

commercially grown carrageenan
Carrageenan is grown commercially in southeast Asia

So Is Carrageenan Bad For You?

Carrageenan has always gotten a free pass from the health community. It’s frequently used as a vegan alternative to gelatin and recently herbivores have come to its defense because dairy companies have been framing it as a “weird additive” in its milk commercials.

Andy Bellatti recently wrote an article defending carrageenan as an additive, and most health/eco-oriented pundits seem to condone it since it’s often used in products they otherwise deem worthy…..most notably plant milks.

However, I think most of these people are suffering from the fallacy of mood affiliation.  Carrageenan helps make foods they like more palatable, and therefore they defend carrageenan as well.

I believe this sense of affiliation is incorrect.

Why, you ask?

Because carrageenan has a long and notable history of significant correlations to different types of cancer and acute-inflammatory responses which are not good for you, to say the least.

Inflammation

Whenever I write a summary article like this one of my first tasks is to type in the subject line into google scholar to see what studies come up.

When I did this for carrageenan I was surprised to see that the most relevant, cited papers had little to do with carrageenan as a food additive, but instead focused on its ability to induce acute inflammation in rats. Here’s the page I saw:

carrageenan and inflammation

After digging a little deeper into the literature I was surprised to find that by far the most notable aspect of carrageenan in medical research is its clockwork like ability to induce oedema and other inflammatory responses in rats. They’ve been doing it in labs for more than 40 years.

Carrageenan ingested in large amounts promotes inflation in two ways: it depresses the activity of macrophages (big immune cells that act like garbage collectors) and induces the creation of histamine,  Cox-2 and prostaglandins, all inflammation inducing compounds.

Cancer

Regular ingestion of carrageenan also has a high correlation to different sorts of gastrointestinal cancers in rats. Most of the research done on the carrageenan/cancer relationship has been done in southeast Asia, and thus is not as well publicized as other harmful food additives like MSG.

However, the trail of research on this issue is long, and pretty consistent. Carrageenan (particularly the “degraded” kind) regularly induces carcinogenesis, neoplasia, and intestinal lesions. Ouch!

By far the most impressive research in this issue was carried out by a professor named Kazuo Wakabayashi, who’s centered in Japan (I believe).

I won’t bore you and write The Unabbreviated Scholarly Review on Carrageenan and Carcinogenesis, but let me point out two relevant studies for you to chew on:

  • A clinical study conducted by Wakabayashi found that rodents were fed daily with a 5% carrageenan aqueous solution had a 100% incidence rate of colon metaplasis after 15 months.
  • As far as I know there have been no clinical studies conducted on humans, but they have been performed on mice, rabbits, guinea pigs, and mice and they all show a connection between carrageenan and colon cancer. 
Food for thought.

So Is Carrageenan Safe?

Throughout most of the world carrageenan has been deemed “generally safe.” And in modest quantities it is, just like most other additives you consume in processed food.

However, I’m a bit miffed at the lack of attention its received for its potentially harmful side effects. The health community typically likes to throw stones at any and all preservatives added by the industrial process, and are quick to point out any harmful correlations that have been brought up in medical research. For example, the correlation between MSG and obesity has received a lot of scrutiny.

So I’m not sure why carrageenan gets a free pass.  It shouldn’t.

Research and References on Carrageenan

Vinegar, R, et. al “Quantitative Studies of the Pathway to Acute Carrageenan Inflammation” Federation Proceedings.  1976,  pgs. 2447-2456.

URL: http://ukpmc.ac.uk/abstract/MED/976489

Di Rosa, M, et. al. “Studies of the Mediators of Acute Inflammatory Response Induced in Rats in Different Sites by Carrageenan and Turpentine” Journal of Pathology. May, 1971. Pgs 15-29.

URL: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/path.1711040103/abstract

Wakabayashi, Kazuo, et. al. “Induction by Degraded Carrageenan of Colorectal Tumors in Rats”  Cancer Letters. January 1978, pgs. 171-176.

URL: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304383578942374

Watanabe, Kenshi, et. al. “Effect of Dietary Undegraded Carrageenan on Colon Carcinogenesis in F344 Rats Treated With Azoxymethane or Methylnitrosurea”  Cancer Research. December 1978, pgs. 4427-4430.

URL: http://cancerres.aacrjournals.org/content/38/12/4427.full.pdf

Tobacman, Joanne. “Review of Harmful Gastrointestinal Effects of Carrageenan in Animal Experiments”  Environmental Health Perspectives. October 2001, pgs. 983-994.

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1242073/pdf/ehp0109-000983.pdf

Guay, Jocelyne, et. al. “Carrageenan-Induced Paw Edema in Rat Elicits a Predominant Prostaglandin E2 Response in the Central Nervous System Associated with the Induction of Microsoma PGE2 Synthase-1”  Journal of Biological Chemistry. June 2004, pgs 24866-24872.

URL: http://www.jbc.org/content/279/23/24866.full.pdf+html

Salvemini, Daniela, et. al. “Nitric Oxide: A Key Mediator in the Early and Late Phase of Carrageenan-Induced Rat Paw Inflammation”  British Journal of Pharmacology. Pgs 829-838.

URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1909531/pdf/brjpharm00083-0008.pdf

190 thoughts on “Carrageenan: A Food Additive That’s Not as Safe As You Think”

  1. Carrageenan makes me physically ill. Doctors thought I had Crohn’s disease, because of my frequent cramping, diarrhea, and bloating–it was living hell. It’s been an eight month journey, but cutting carrageenan and Yellow 5 from my diet made the symptoms go away entirely.

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    1. Me too. And SPECIFICALLY my ileum starts hurting and cramping. I had all the Crohn’s symptoms and nothing was apparent on a Crohn’s test. Stopped Almond milk with carrageenan in it and the symnptoms went away. Now I drink raw goat milk. It self-digests because the enzymes are still active. I inquired about the feed and the dairy said they are careful not to use GMO alfalfa. After they said that, I was all for it! I buy their yogurt too.

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    1. dk,

      My guess is that the amount of nasal spray you’d ingest is so small that there wouldn’t be enough carrageenan to be dangerous.

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  2. […] dysfunction triggered by the glutamate receptors in organs and tissue throughout the body(7). In Carrageenan's case, a derivative of processed seaweed, documented gastrointestinal inflammatory responses have […]

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  3. I don’t know how to thank you enough for this excellent and well written article. I have been having a major problem with my bladder due to the ingestion of carrageenan since last year and every doctor I’ve been to has misdiagnosed me, gave me the run around and even suggested psych drugs to mask the problem, saying that the nerves would feel more dulled as a result. Yeah, that’s right, let’s just cover up and mask the problem, that’ll fix it! I discovered it was carrageenan by the diet elimination method and the one thing that kept inflaming my bladder was the carrageenan ingredient/additive. I noticed the one thing I hadn’t eliminated was my coffee creamer. I have had far too many sleepless nights of which felt like complete torture and many thought I might have painful bladder or ICS but whenever I didn’t eat or drink anything with carrageenan, I felt just great and could eat whatever I want, even spicy foods. It was whenever I ingested anything with that one additive in it that I suffered greatly and it just happens to affect my bladder the most. Now that I’m doing more research, I’m realizing it’s in almost every brand of ice cream out there, lots of yogurts, creamers I used to love to add to my coffee, so many processed and pre-packaged foods (which should be avoided anyway), just practically everything.
    I’ve only been allergic to sulfas and read that that’s what carrageenan is, a red seaweed plant so this doesn’t surprise me. I remember having a terrible reaction to a sulfa medication back when I was younger but my reaction to it was different and it made my heart beat rapid and have avoided it at the doctor’s ever since so that’s just food for thought. I’ve written many companies to let them know of my ordeal and to please refrain from adding carrageenan in their products as I can no longer enjoy them like I used to. In fact, now that my family knows about it and what it has done to me, they are doing their best to avoid it as well. I wonder just how many other people may have the same or different, often debilitating and painful symptoms and just don’t realize it’s the carrageenan doing this to them? Had this never have happened to me, I’m sure I would refrain from buying anything with carrageenan in it as much as possible anyway due to learning about it’s ill effects and the fact that it can cause cancer. It’s just not a necessary ingredient for anything for human consumption. Again, thank you so much for writing this very informative article.

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    1. Jessica,

      It warms my heart to find out my writing is having such a positive effect on people! If you read through the comments here, I think it’s clear that carrageenan bothers quite a few people, even if it’s been deemed “clinically safe” under certain types of testing. I feel comfortable with the assertion that it’s something that should be avoided on an on-going basis, and some people should steer clear of it entirely.

      Happy eating!

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      1. It warms my heart in return to have found someone like you who cares enough to write about this subject, carrageenan, that is typically deemed “safe” as many companies have responded to me due to the fact that carrageenan is from seaweed…lots of things are from nature like arsenic but does that make it safe for normal everyday consumption and in so many brands? No way! Everything in moderation can be okay but I’ve noticed carrageenan is practically everywhere just like soy. There has got to be so many people wondering what the heck is wrong with their stomachs, bowels, bladders, their skin and not making a connection yet and only through the diet elimination method will they possibly find the problem. I was so desperate, I was more than willing to go through a very bland diet and then try something I used to love one day at a time and if I had a reaction more than once or twice, sometime three times to be sure, then I knew the culprit. I try my best at avoiding it but I sometimes find that I mess up by thinking something as simple as a sorbet juice drink might be okay but sometimes there’s carrageenan in it and afterwards I suffer a couple of nights as if it were a total nightmare as a result. I just have to be extra, extra careful when ordering anything and whenever I have a calm day, I try to enjoy it to the fullest because it has become so rare for me but I am getting better at figuring out what works and what doesn’t but it’s never always perfect. Again, I so appreciate your research and article about this very important subject!

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  4. I have lupus and am now on a combination Fail Safe diet and grain dairy free additive free diet. Thank you so so so much for your article. This carrageenan is what is causing some of my debilitating issues.Can you post this article somewhere in an autoimmune section for others to read?

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  5. 1. SO MUCH FOR THE MYTHS.
    CONSIDER THE FACTS ON CARRAGEENAN FOR A CHANGE.

    Q. What is Carrageenan?

    … A. Carrageenan is a naturally-occurring seaweed extract. It is widely used in foods and non-foods to improve texture and stability. Common uses include meat and poultry, dairy products, canned pet food, cosmetics and toothpaste.
    Q. Why the controversy?
    A. Self-appointed consumer watchdogs have produced numerous web pages filled with words condemning carrageenan as an unsafe food additive for human consumption. However, in 70+ years of carrageenan being used in processed foods, not a single substantiated claim of an acute or chronic disease has been reported as arising from carrageenan consumption. On a more science-based footing, food regulatory agencies in the US, the EU, and in the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization/World Health Organization (FAO/WHO) repeatedly review and continue to approve carrageenan as a safe food additive.
    Q. What has led up to this misrepresentation of the safety of an important food stabilizer, gelling agent and thickener?
    A. It clearly has to be attributed to the research of Dr. Joanne Tobacman, an Associate Prof at the University of Illinois in Chicago. She and a group of molecular biologists have accused carrageenan of being a potential inflammatory agent as a conclusion from laboratory experiments with cells of the digestive tract. It requires a lot of unproven assumptions to even suggest that consumption of carrageenan in the human diet causes inflammatory diseases of the digestive tract. The objectivity of the Chicago research is also flawed by the fact that Dr Tobacman has tried to have carrageenan declared an unsafe food additive on weak technical arguments that she broadcast widely a decade before the University of Chicago research began.

    Q. What brings poligeenan into a discussion of carrageenan?
    A. Poligeenan (“degraded carrageenan” in pre-1988 scientific and regulatory publications) is a possible carcinogen to humans; carrageenan is not. The only relationship between carrageenan and poligeenan is that the former is the starting material to make the latter. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan and cannot be produced in the digestive tract from carrageenan-containing foods.
    Q. What are the differences between poligeenan and carrageenan?
    A. The production process for poligeenan requires treating carrageenan with strong acid at high temp (about that of boiling water) for 6 hours or more. These severe processing conditions convert the long chains of carrageenan to much shorter ones: ten to one hundred times shorter. In scientific terms the molecular weight of poligeenan is 10,000 to 20,000; whereas that of carrageenan is 200,000 to 800,000. Concern has been raised about the amount of material in carrageenan with molecular weight less than 50,000. The actual amount (well under 1%) cannot even be detected accurately with current technology. Certainly it presents no threat to human health.
    Q. What is the importance of these molecular weight differences?
    A. Poligeenan contains a fraction of material low enough in molecular weight that it can penetrate the walls of the digestive tract and enter the blood stream. The molecular weight of carrageenan is high enough that this penetration is impossible. Animal feeding studies starting in the 1960s have demonstrated that once the low molecular weight fraction of poligeenan enters the blood stream in large enough amounts, pre-cancerous lesions begin to form. These lesions are not observed in animals fed with a food containing carrageenan.

    Q. Does carrageenan get absorbed in the digestive track?
    A. Carrageenan passes through the digestive system intact, much like food fiber. In fact, carrageenan is a combination of soluble and insoluble nutritional fiber, though its use level in foods is so low as not to be a significant source of fiber in the diet.
    Summary
    Carrageenan has been proven completely safe for consumption. Poligeenan is not a component of carrageenan.
    Closing Remarks
    The consumer watchdogs with their blogs and websites would do far more service to consumers by researching their sources and present only what can be substantiated by good science. Unfortunately we are in an era of media frenzy that rewards controversy.
    Additional information available:
    On June 11th, 2008, Dr. Joanne Tobacman petitioned the FDA to revoke the current regulations permitting use of carrageenan as a food additive.
    On June 11th, 2012 the FDA denied her petition, categorically addressing and ultimately dismissing all of her claims; their rebuttal supported by the results of several in-depth, scientific studies.
    If you would like to read the full petition and FDA response, they can be accessed at http://www.regulations.gov/#!searchResults;rpp=25;po=0;s=FDA-2008-P-0347

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    1. LOL in depth? How many times has history proven scientific theory to be false? Wait… who said the world isn’t flat… BLASPHEMY!!! You post an impressive list of opinions yet only site one hyperlink that supports them. Clearly not an all inclusive hyperlink. As with all things derived by man there is a tract record for margin of error. 100% safe or as you are suggesting “not a single substantiated claim” means that there has never been an adverse reactions EVER. Now if you want to say that the 1 out of 1000 or that the 1 out of 100,000 is statistically insignificant, you still can not make a 100% claim, only 999:1000 or 99,999:100,000. Therefore a 100% never, ever, caused any harm blanket claim is arrogance. The FDA is designed to protect the majority of individuals. They operate under a +/- 3~5% statistical delusion. Rat feces in corn kernels is acceptable in a 1:1,000,000 ratio, statistically insignificant but do you want to be the one that ingests that one little turd? So what if you are the 1:1000 individual that is harmed? You would be here campaigning against Carrageenan instead of worshipping it.

      To be fair, didnt the FDA approve transfats at one point in time? How many times has the FDA made a claim only to reverse their “opinion” once they have been given overwhelming evidence that forced a mandatory reversal of their “opinion”. No one ever wants to be proven wrong because usually they have invested so much into their opinion/theory. Proceed until apprehended is a universal human trait. Only by challenging what we believe to be true can we uncover false or questionable evidence/claims. People are here to challenge the “Carrageenan is 100% safe” claim. Is the challenge valid? Anaphylaxis occurs due to many different causes and therefore should be a cause for concern for any individual that develops a sensitivity no matter what the cause.

      Just a thought…

      There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know. Donald Rumsfeld
      Read more at: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/quotes/d/donaldrums148142.html

      Love him or hate him, Donald Rumsfelds statement sums up the human condition well. To take this one step further, what happens to the things that we know if we find an known uknown or a unknown unknown that changes what we know? Just because we havent yet identified the problem doesn’t mean that the problem doesn’t exist.

      Take note… Mr. Bechtel has not posted since 3/24/2014, in all honesty it appears he has lost interest. Or like the rest of humanity he suffers from the “proceed until apprehended” malady.

      I can exaggerate all I want… doesnt make it 100% “accurite”. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/accurate 🙂

      Look I can site a well respected webpage. Respect my authority! Question everything!

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  6. This is from WEBMD.com:

    Carrageenan is made from parts of various red algae or seaweeds and is used for medicine.

    Carrageenan is used for coughs, bronchitis, tuberculosis, and intestinal problems. The French use a form that has been changed by adding acid and high temperatures. This form is used to treat peptic ulcers, and as a bulk laxative.

    Some people apply carrageenan directly to the skin for discomfort around the anus.

    In manufacturing, carrageenan is used as a binder, thickening agent, and as a stabilizer in medications, foods, and toothpaste. Carrageenan is also an ingredient in weight loss products.

    How does it work?

    Carrageenan contains chemicals that may decrease stomach and intestinal secretions. Large amounts of carrageenan seem to pull water into the intestine, and this may explain why it is tried as a laxative. Carrageenan also might decrease pain and swelling (inflammation).

    Carrageenan is safe for most people in food amounts. There is a chemically altered form of carrageenan that is available in France to treat peptic ulcers. This form might be UNSAFE because there’s some evidence that it might cause cancer.
    Special Precautions & Warnings:
    Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Carrageenan is safe in amounts found in food, but there’s not enough information to know if it’s safe in the larger amounts that are used as medicine. It’s best to stay on the safe side and avoid use in medicinal amounts.

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  7. People are confusing TWO different types of carrageenan. Degraded carrageenan is linked to cancer wich is not used in any food product. Food grade carrageenan is safe althoug people with seafood allergies may be sensitive to it.

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  8. Anybody know how long it takes to leave the body and the damage done by it’s ingestion? Finally solved the mystery of my projectile vomiting hours after ingesting it. The light bulb moment for me was rotisserie chicken. After checking, found it in DoTerra (expensive) toothpaste and Lilly of the Valley aloe vera gel 😦

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  9. another story ditzing the scare about carrageenan – well researched and interesting view: so according to them listening to jimmy hendrix is probably about as unsafe when it comes to inducing cancer as consuming carrageenan! I’ve followed posts on this site and can see that some people think they have a problem with carrageenan but it seems they also eat pretty bad diets overall. I think they need to stop blaming a product that isn’t even ingested and look for diet related solutions. Taking things out is one thing, ensuring you get a good balanced diet is probably a better way of thinking…
    http://followyourheart.com/is-carrageenan-safe/

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  10. everal studies in the early 2000s suggested that a certain type of carrageenan — degraded carrageenan, which has been hydrolyed, or broken down by acid — could cause gastrointestinal problems, including cancers. The degraded type is not typically used in food. In fact, only the undegraded variety has been deemed safe for human consumption by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA) and approved for use in foods by the Food and Drug Administration in the US.

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  11. All being said (Good arguments on both sides of this issue), I am watching the sourcing and the processing of the seaweed that contains carrageenan. As I mentioned in a previous comment, it may be good in small amounts, depending on your sensitivities; but all seaweed picks up contaminants, as being part of the ecosystem. Due diligence may be the key word here. Thanks for your time….

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    1. I think a decent summation of the carrageenan literature can be summed up as: (Mostly) harmless. Proceed with caution.

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      1. Jonathan,

        Great information. Great blog. Don’t know how I missed it these past two years.

        From personal experience, as well as reading and talking with others with celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity for some reason many of us share an issue with seaweed in general – forget processed or not. We react to it with celiac-like symptoms. For me the celiac-like symptoms when I consume seaweed or its processed version carrageenan (from red seaweed species) are predominantly GI and severe joint and muscle pains and spasms – though I have other symptoms as well. I am the canary in the coal mine when it comes to seaweed and substances processed from seaweed. I recently discovered that manufacturers of GF carb products (breads, crackers, and such) who have been removing carrageenan due to consumer complaints are now using alginates (sodium/calcium/potassium alginate) or alginic acid in many of their new products.

        Life was good for my first few months gluten free with my new sense of developing wellness and lessening of lifelong odd medical issue that were increasingly starting to become debilitating in my 50s. Then symptoms began…discovered it was products with carrageenan – confirmed multiple times when I would accidently have half a small creamer that contained it or some other product that had been safe but then starting adding carrageenan. Months go by I am fine then develop symptoms with a sodium free version of MSG-magnesium ammonium glutamate in some chicken broth. Months go by again and when I come symptomatic from a can of beans with the kombu/brown seaweed. I am very careful about restaurants and cannot eat anything processed in a wheat factory – some cashews almost did me in one time when I missed that on the label.

        I can tell you that I have helped many unhealed celiac patients by having them eliminate carrageenan – and their remaining symptoms improve. Honestly, if I was a GI doc this substance is right up there with no gluten especially for those patients not healing despite a strict GF program. I also recommend avoiding seaweed – though some celiac folks eat the tested GF seaweed chips from the blades. I do know they only test for gliadins and not glutenin proteins with the seaweed. (I am still unclear if both of these are toxic for celiac folks.) My other thought is that perhaps more than just the blades are used when using seaweed as a preservative or in making the substance carrageenan and alginate.

        Finally, I was really not doing well for the first time in two years since being diagnosed and maintaining a strict GF diet. Had not eaten out in a while but had definite celiac symptoms and growing fatigue over the past several weeks, and I feared I was developing another autoimmune disorder. One evening it became clearly worse – rather than insidiously creeping up on me as it had been. I recalled taking two bites of a new GF bagel the day before. My husband and I could not believe when we looked at the label that it had sodium alginate (made from brown seaweed) as this manufacturer at customers’ insistence had removed carrageenan from their products. When I then realized our weekend snack of cream cheese and smoked salmon with bagel chips (also made with alginate) by the same manufacturer was likely the cause of my failing health and celiac-like symptoms. I am a week clean of seaweed and feeling much better but some joint symptoms have not completely resolved. Yes. I have contacted the GF manufacturer and another associated manufacturer that had alginate in its tortilla wraps, as well as the parent company we own stock in…I asked if they did not understand that seaweed is an issue for your major consumer group – celiac and NCGS folks and that alginate, if my experience is any indication, is as bad as carrageenan.

        I have corresponded with Dr. Tobacman in the past and sent her a note about my recent brown algae in the form of alginate experience, as well as a fellow celiac who is an MD who believes as I do that there is more to this seaweed reaction with celiac folks like me who have no other food sensitivities. We have been searching for scientists who have run amino acid sequencing on all parts of the common red and brown algae used in food products to see any are gluten like. While celiac specialists say MSG is fine, it remains an issue for many celiac and NCGS people, and keep in mind it was originally made from seaweed. Then there is that glutamate – free glutamate issue that I hate to delve into at this point as for me this is not an issue as I eat foods high in glutamate without incident.

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      2. Sharon….welcome! This is an ass-kickingly good comment. I find it interesting that MSG would give someone with celiac problems but glutamate would not, since MSG is basically a glutamate salt (despite its notoriety its chemically quite simple).

        Interesting take on the celiac/carrageenan/seaweed angle. If you find out more info please let me know and I’ll put it out on the blog.

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      3. Thanks Jonathan. There is no need to respond to this reply.

        I really think my hypothesis is a valid one for testing – and it seems like it would not take much to test the two or more common species of red algae used to produce carrageenan and the brown/kombu species used directly (as in the canned beans by one manufacturer who advertises as a GF producer and is working to get out carrageenan) and those brown species used in alginate. The major cost/effort would be in identifying and obtaining the correct species of algae (commonly used in our food products) in their entirety (stipe, blade, holdfast, and float) for a lab well versed in AA (amino acid) sequencing to test.

        Can you imagine if some part of these seaweeds contained gluten-like proteins of gliadins or glutenins? (When I was in high school we had to read with each unit a scientist’s book about the unit topic, like ecology or genetics or whatever. I recall reading the phrase that “seaweed was the wheat of the ocean” in terms of its nutritional value for future generations. Maybe it is in more ways than one!) If my idea is correct, our issue with inflammation caused by seaweeds used as salt preservatives or in carrageenan or now alginate would be easily resolved as manufacturers would need to label products with these as “contains gluten.”

        this is ever the case hopefully the seaweed industry of the Philippines will not threaten to sue me as they have done with Dr. Tobacman! Hopefully my email will alert her to look at this from a different angle. thepatientceliac,com is another good site with a woman MD who has celiac and she (like me) is impacted by carrageenan – though she noted after my canned bean experience she does not wish to eat anything with seaweed. She has been made aware of the alginate situation as well but has been away, I will guarantee you she will get on it as she had asked me for the name of the PhD from one of the celiac groups who had insisted that in some (yet inaccessible) gluten project of 5000 food stuffs that seaweeds had to have been tested and that I must have a problem with complex carbohydrate digestion – which I do not since I can even eat clean field-to-factory oats (as I may have noted) as well as corn (though I try to avoid it due to the sugar content and GMOs), rice, soy, etc. with no other food allergies.

        My husband who is of Irish decent was amazed (though I know I told him this) about carrageenan and how long the Irish have been using it…think about the high percentage of their population with celiac disease. Hmmm. The doctor was convinced he had it (a GI specialist) but he tested negative antibody wise and genetically; however, now some European scientist has identified another celiac gene – a third one – that has not received much play. And while the specialists regularly deny there is no connection of celiac to NCGS – that the later does not precede celiac. There is a case history from Ireland blows that out of the water – and let’s face it the Irish docs know how to test for celiac. Query “case history of Ireland patient celiac and ulcerative colitis”…The most complete article is the Medscape.com – if you go through a search engine you can get at it without signing up. Essentially, patient tested negative for celiac – antibody and small bowel biopsy then 5 years later with a worsening of symptoms she tested positive then also developed ulcerative colitis.

        My husband noted the other day aside from the bagels, bagel chips, and tortilla wraps that he has seen alginate in a number of salad dressings as well. It’s fine for me – I can cook, bake, and make my own dressings, but think of all the folks who, if like me, may unknowingly be impacted by this new “carrageenan” – and head to their doctor with GI, neuro, neuro-muscular, joint and other issues.

        Regarding free glutamates, I went down this posted list (http://www.msgfacts.com/nutrition/what_foods_are_glutamate-rich.aspx)and honestly many of these are regularly in my diet without issue. Overall, I feel my best with low-med amounts of healthy proteins, lots of vegetables, small amount of fruit – and limited processed carbs and sugars.

        Have a great new year! If I hear from Dr. Tobacman or Dr. Jess Walters (thepatientceliac.com) I will let you know.

        Sharon

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  12. you guys I going to break it down simple and down to earth when you leave nature in its natural state it could be rewarding healing nourishing essential you name it read about Hippocrates let food be your medicine wow did he know now hell be in shock lol people sneaking stuff at all cost ect when its altered chemically body doesn’t know how to use it yes carrageenan its process haven’t found a way to make it stable jh

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  13. when you are in question of a food ask yourself is it organic can they prove its organic not to sure our planet its polluted its it whole and organic maybe then maybe eat it and be happy its hard to prove its organic anyways should you brake your head no just be happy and remember if its process its not real food jh

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  14. Holy heck. Here I splurged on this $49.99 jar of Schinoussa berry antioxidant greens powder and have been taking a teaspoonful every morning thinking I’m doing something healthy for myself, cleaning out the pipes as they say. And wondering why I’m getting more and more bloated by the day, it’s not just a feeling, my pants are getting tighter! As someone above said, I look and feel 10 months preggers! Not good! (Eating very low carb which was working for me) I look at the label and the top thing is Irish Moss! Ok~ Cutting that out as of immediately! Thanks for a great article!

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    1. Tanya,

      Thanks for sharing!

      I think the problem for many is that in some people’s digestive tract carrageenan behaves a lot like gluten or other molecules which trigger an immune response.

      It could be pretty soon we’ll see “carrageenan” intolerance the same way people behave badly to soy or wheat.

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      1. I could never figure out why I was not feeling healthy on non-milk “milks”. Coconut, Hemp, Almond, Rice milk, etc. Then I read somewhere that Crohn’s symptoms could be partly alleviated by avoiding all carbohydrate “gums” added for texture enhancement, fiber, etc. My pain was specifically in the ileum. Whether it is celiac or Crohn’s, I’m not sure, and don’t know if it’s just carb intolerance, but I tried sticking with raw goat’s milk and herbal teas; then my symptoms decreased. 2 weeks on carrageenan containing products and my misery comes back in full force. Same thing happens with wheat. Go figure.
        There are only one or two soy milk brands that contain no enhancing “gums”, if you tolerate soy. Mixed opinions about soy are online.

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      2. Ellen, please beware that for me and many other celiac and non-celiac gluten sensitive folks our only other food/additive issue is carrageenan – for me the other gums are no issue (though I try to avoid these as well). See thepatientceliac.com (a woman MD with celiac) and theglutenfreeprofessor.com – to name a few who talk about their issue with carrageenan), and I recommend to anyone with other GI issues or diagnoses to eliminate this seaweed-based emulsifier at minimum. Anyone I have recommended this to has seen an abatement of their symptoms, however, as the glutenfreeprofessor noted only one GI doc at an international celiac conference even recognized carrageenan as an issues for celiac folks! This is being unaddressed despite my efforts and because of this I am boycotting Healthy Villi conference with docs from Mass General, Children’s and Boston Beth Israel. Friends with GI diagnoses ask their docs should they eliminate gluten, carrageenan and the doctors laugh and continue to prescribe $500 per dose IV administered meds instead. Why not give an elimination diet a try of known inflammatory foods? What can it hurt?

        I buried the lede – beware if you have issues with carrageenan – as foods, esp. bread products from UDIs and Glutino (Boulder Brands) now increasingly are adding alginates – under sodium alginate or other compound or alginic acid is made from brown algae/seaweed – and likely will elicit the same symptoms. I have alerted them about this, UNO’s who heard about this their head consumer person was very upset that one bite of their reconstituted roll (my husband’s burger) made me sick. Beware of kelp, etc. and a ton of other terms for seaweed now in our foods…

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  15. I have one very important source that you are missing with regard to CARRAGEENAN – DR. RUSSELL BLAYLOCK, author of EXCITOTOXINS and has spent the last 15 years researching this very carcinogenic substance. His newsletter is available through NEWSMAX. The March and April editions are an eye opener
    for anyone. He happens to be a retired Neurosurgeon, author, speaker and researcher.

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    1. Wow great resource. I plan to try to contact him after reading his research as this connects seaweed, and carrageenan and alginates to msg. Now why are seaweed-based substances, msg and gluten for many celiac folks their only food issues but not other foods high in glutamate glutamic acid.

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  16. […] I’m a latte girl.  I love a latte in the morning, or as my husband may say, a little coffee with my milk.  I gave up liquid dairy long ago for several reasons, but when I adopted the SCD diet my alternative of Soymilk had to go as well as it’s not legal on the SCD diet.  Not only that, but other alternatives like Almond Milk or Coconut Milk found commercially aren’t strictly legal either because every single one I’ve found so far contains carrageenan (if you read the fine print).  This is made from seaweed, full of polysaccharides, so illegal on the SCD.  There’s a great blog post  by Jonathan Bechtel that describes the unattractive qualities of carrageenan here: https://blog.healthkismet.com/carrageenan-cancer-health-inflammation […]

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  17. I used mocking outrage back in high school after learning that Jamaicans swear by it as an aphrodisiac. I told the lunch lady that carrageenan was responsible for teenage pregnancy.

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      1. Simply not true. I have been eating clean for 50 days. I thought carrageenan was an overreaction and had it in a GLASS of almond milk. Never again. I was up until after 2AM after drinking it at 8PM. A racing heart and the worst stomach cramps I’ve ever had in my life. It passed after several hours almost as quickly as it came on. Unfortunately it’s been three days now and I’m still dealing with the aftermath. Never again.

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      2. Have a neighbor on a GF program working with dietician per her daughter. Told her to have her mother watch out for food additives esp. seaweed additives like carrageenan, alginates, agar, etc. Daughter said dietician should know about these additives – I said don’t bet on it as many GI docs still don’t recognize the issues these cause for those with GI diagnoses. Anyone I have mentioned this to has remaining symptoms both GI and other inflammatory issues resolve eliminating foods with these seaweed additives.

        Queried the researchers at Columbia University who determined that those with celiac respond to several other proteins in wheat aside from those in gluten to test seaweeds in food for similar proteins to which so many with celiac and NCGS may be reacting.

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